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General Information
General Information

FAQs for Short Term Rental (STR) Program

General Questions about STRs and the STR Ordinance

1. What is a Short-Term Rental (STR)?

An STR is the use of any Dwelling Unit, authorized Accessory Dwelling Unit or Accessory Building, or portions thereof, for sleeping or lodging purposes by a paying guest for less than 14 consecutive days. This use is commonly associated with an online rental platform (e.g. Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO), but can also be rented without the assistance of a third party service.

A Dwelling Unit is defined as a building or portion of a building designed for, or occupied exclusively by, persons living as one household. See Question #6 for definitions of ADUs and accessory buildings.

2. What is the STR Ordinance and who does it apply to?

The STR Ordinance describes the regulations that apply to the operation of STRs. It applies to anyone who rents all or a portion of their property for stays of less than 14 consecutive days.

3. I allow guests to stay 14 days or more.  Does the STR Ordinance apply to me?

Yes, unless you become a landlord.  A Short Term Rental (STR) may be rented for up to 90 days (not necessarily consecutive) during a given calendar year without the Host present, or for any length of time when the Host is present.  The City's STR ordinance assumes most transient stays will be for less than 14 consecutive days, in part because Berkeley Rent Control Law states that an individual renting a residential rental unit for 14 consecutive days or more may be considered a tenant with certain rights and tenant protections: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Home/Guide_to_Rent_Control.aspx.  Single-family residences are often exempt. However, an STR Transient could attempt to secure rights under this law. State landlord/tenant law may also apply as to rental units and boarders: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/whois.shtml. You are encouraged to consult an attorney or other specialist if you have any questions about applicable law.

4. Who can operate an STR?

You can operate an STR if you meet all of the following requirements:

A) The dwelling to be rented is your primary residence
B) You either own the property or have written permission of the owner to use the property as an STR; and
C) You have obtained a Zoning Certificate for your STR from the City of Berkeley

5. Which properties are eligible for an STR?

Most owner-occupied residences, including apartments, accessory buildings and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU), are eligible. Units are not eligible to be used for an STR if they have any of the following features:

  1. Are located in any of the following zoning districts: E-SR, C-N, C-E, C-SO, M, MM, and MU-LI.
  2. Are subject to affordability restrictions for renters or owners through the City's Inclusionary Housing or Below Market Rent (BMR) programs.
  3. Are located on a property that has had a No-Fault Eviction within the past five years (see BMC Section 23C.22.020 for exceptions).
  4. Are located in Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) that have been used as long-term rentals since April 1, 2007.
  5. Are located in Accessory Dwelling Units permitted after April 1, 2017.
  6. Do not comply with the requirements of the Berkeley Housing Code.

6. What is the definition of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Accessory Building? Are there restrictions on the use of an ADU or Accessory Building for an STR?

Definitions: Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is defined and regulated in the City's Zoning Ordinance, Chapters 23D.10 and 23F.04.010. An ADU is documented by a recorded deed restriction on the property that can be:

A) a secondary unit on a lot which is occupied by one single family dwelling; or
B) an efficiency unit as defined in Section 17958.1 of the California Health and Safety Code; or
C) a manufactured home, as defined in Section 18007 of the California Health and Safety Code.

Accessory Building is defined in Chapters 23F.04.010 and 23D.08 of the Zoning Ordinance. An Accessory Building is a detached building on a lot with a larger main building, and contains habitable space but does not contain a full kitchen.

Restrictions: The STR Ordinance and Zoning Ordinance have the following restrictions for STRs in ADUs or Accessory Buildings:

  • ADUs and Accessory Buildings must be legally established and meet the Berkeley Housing Code to be used as STRs.
  • ADUs and Accessory Buildings located on parcels with access from a roadway with less than 26 feet in pavement width cannot be used as STRs without approval of an Administrative Use Permit (AUP).
  • ADUs established after April 1, 2017 cannot be used as STRs.
  • ADUs used as long-term rentals since April 1, 2007 cannot be used as STRs.
  • Accessory Dwelling Units can only be used as STRs on properties developed with a single Dwelling Unit.
  • Only one Accessory Building per parcel may be used as an STR.

Any legally established ADU will have a deed restriction that requires the owner of the property to live in either the main dwelling unit or the ADU. If a copy of the recorded deed restriction has not been submitted to the city as part of an ADU approval process, the applicant will need to provide one to staff before the STR application can be approved.

7. What City approvals are needed for an STR?

Anyone operating an STR in Berkeley must obtain zoning approval for the unit, regardless of when the unit was first rented on a short-term basis. Zoning approval is obtained by submitting an application for a Zoning Certificate.

8. I just rent my property out informally. Do I need City approval?

Yes.

9. What are my responsibilities as an STR host?

A host must obtain zoning approval for the unit and be in compliance with the STR Ordinance. This includes paying all required taxes and fees, providing information to guests regarding the City's Noise and Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing Ordinances, notifying the City of changes to Host or Local Contact information, and listing the Zoning Certificate number on any rental advertisement.

10. How often can I rent my STR? Do I have to be home when renting out my STR?

STR hosts should be aware of the following: any STR Transient staying for 14 consecutive days or more may be subject to the tenant protections in the Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance, BMS Chapter 13.76. The STR must be your primary residence, whether you are a tenant or the property owner. Your presence will determine how often the unit may be rented. The STR may be rented out for an unlimited number of days while you are present, and may be rented out for a maximum of 90 days during any calendar year while you are not present. Presence includes living in the unit being rented or in the main unit associated with an ADU or accessory building on the same property.

11. How many STR Guests can stay in my STR?

The number of people that can occupy an STR is generally two per bedroom. See the Berkeley Housing Code (available at the Berkeley City Clerk's office and the Berkeley Main Library) for more information.

12. What are the rules for STR Guests?

Guests can stay less than 14 consecutive days and are subject to the same rules as other city residents (Community Noise Ordinance, Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing Ordinance, etc.).

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Questions about the STR Approval Process

13. How can I apply for approval of my STR? What is the cost?

All Hosts must complete a Short-Term Rental Zoning Certificate (ZC-STR) application, provide all of the required attachments, and a $220 non-refundable ZC-STR fee. The application may be submitted on-line at the City's Online Service Center, or may be submitted in person to the Zoning Counter at the Permit Service Center.

STRs will be subject to a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), as well as a monthly enforcement fee. These taxes and fees may be remitted directly by the Host or through the Hosting Platform.

14. What documentation do I need to submit with my ZC-STR application?

Documentation is required to verify that the host and the unit are eligible to register in the STR program. Applications that do not include required documentation will be rejected as incomplete:

  • Proof of property ownership (copy of deed or property tax bill) or proof of property owner permission to operate an STR (click here to download the form)

    NOTE: If the ZCSTR application is for a unit in an ADU, staff will need verification that the unit is a legally established ADU (i.e. has a recorded deed restriction that requires the owner of the property to live in either the main dwelling unit or the ADU). The applicant will need to provide a copy of the recorded deed restriction with the proof of ownership to staff before the STR application can be approved.

  • Proof of residency at the STR location. This will require three of the following documents:

    • CA Driver's License or ID
    • Credit card bill
    • Property tax bill showing the Homeowner Exemption
    • Voter registration
    • Vehicle registration
    • Bank statement
    • Utility bill (a utility bill can only account for one of the three documents)
     

    PLEASE NOTE: The information that you upload to this site may be disclosed if required by State law. You are advised to redact all private information other than your name and address (i.e. account numbers, account balances, birth dates, etc.) prior to uploading your documents.

15. I tried applying but the database would not accept my address. What does this mean?

There can be two reasons that your address is not recognized by the system:

  1. The street name or number is invalid; or
  2. The unit number is invalid.

Contact the Planning Department (str@cityofberkeley.info or 510-981-7410) to determine which situation applies in your case. If the unit number is invalid because it is not in the City's system, the property owner will have to submit a request for an Address Assignment.

16. How long will the application process take?

Applicants will need to answer questions about the proposed STR unit and upload supporting information. Completion of the application itself should take 20 minutes. Additional time will be necessary to collect the supplemental information to upload (See Question 14).

17. Can I save and resume my application?

Yes. Your application will be saved for 30 days. If there is no activity after 30 days, it will be deleted.

18. I still have questions about the ZC-STR program. Who can I contact?

Questions may be e-mailed to STR@cityofberkeley.info. You may also leave a message with the City's Zoning Division: (510) 981-7410.

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Community Interest

19. Can a detached building be used as an STR?

Yes, an STR is allowed in Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) established prior to April 1, 2017 and in Accessory Buildings. See Question #5 for exceptions. See Question #6 for definitions of ADU and Accessory Building.

20. Can an apartment unit be used as an STR?

Yes, as long as the host is the occupant of the unit and has the written permission of the property owner. See Question #5 for exceptions.

21. How can I learn if my neighbor is operating an STR?

STR hosts must send notice to the residents of all adjacent properties when they initially establish an STR. This notice will include host contact information, as well as information for a local contact if the host is not present during the rental period.

You can also search the permits for a property on the City's Online Permits portal: https://permits.cityofberkeley.info/Community/. You will need to register for an account if you don't already have one, then click on 'Zoning' to research a particular property.

You can contact the City's 24-hour STR Compliance Line at 833-300-0787 if you believe that a property is operating without a license.

22. Can I prevent an STR from locating in my neighborhood or building?

No. An STR is allowed to operate if it meets the operating standards and requirements of the STR Ordinance.

23. I live on a street with permit-only parking. Can Hosts obtain permits for Guests?

Almost any resident may apply for a limited number of visitor permits per year. There is no restriction regarding who can use the visitor permits. See the City's Residential Preferential Parking (RPP) program page for more information.

24. How will the STR Ordinance be enforced?

STR Hosts will submit information to verify compliance with the requirements of the Ordinance when they register their STR.

25. What are the consequences for violations of the STR Ordinance?

Properties that violate any provision of the STR Ordinance may be cited pursuant to BMC Chapter 1.20 and BMC Chapter 1.28 and may be declared to be a public nuisance subject to abatement under BMC Chapters 1.24, 1.26, and 23B.64.

26. What is the definition of a public nuisance?

An STR may be declared a public nuisance based on violations of the following type: substantial disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of private or public property in a significant segment of a neighborhood, such as excessive noise or traffic, obstruction of public streets by crowds or vehicles, public intoxication, the service to or consumption of alcohol by minors, fights, disturbances of the peace, litter, or other similar conditions.

27. Who can I call with public nuisance complaints related to an STR?

The 24-hour STR Compliance Line is 833-300-0787. This number should be used to report non-emergency nuisance problems related to STRs, such as noise, parking, and trash-related issues. Unpermitted STR rentals can also be reported to this number.

28. Can an STR continue to operate if the STR has complaints from neighbors?

Yes. Filing a complaint by itself does not provide a legal basis to stop an STR operation. If an STR is found to be a public nuisance, it will be subject to remedies set forth in BMC Section 23C.22.060. These remedies may include prohibition of STR operation for one year or revocation of the ZC-STR.

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Taxes and Fees

29. Am I required to pay any fees or taxes to operate an STR?

STRs will be subject to a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), as well as a monthly enforcement fee. These taxes/fees may be remitted directly by the Host or through the Hosting Platform to the City's Department of Finance. There is also a non-refundable $220 application fee.

 30. What fees are included as rent for Transient Occupancy Tax?

Rent and fees include, but are not limited to: 

  •  rents
  • cleaning fees
  • pet fees 
  • internet charge
 
  • late check-out fees
  • service fees
  • extra person fees
  • resort fees
  •  

    Rent does not include refundable deposits and items in a special package rate such as boat passes or other recreational activity subject to CA sales tax as long as the operator separately states the rent and tax from other amounts on all receipts and books of record. If additional benefits are not stated separately as indicated above, the entire amount shall be presumed to be rent. 

    31. How is Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT, aka “Hotel Tax”) calculated and collected on a transaction for transient accommodations? 

    The TOT is 12% of the rent and is added to the amount of rent charged to the guest.  To calculate TOT, multiply the rent charged by 12%. For example, if a guest is charged $75 plus a $25 “service fee,” the taxable rent is $100.  The tax would be 12% of $100, which is $12.  To collect the TOT, the party that receives the rent payment adds TOT to the rent and collects both at the same time.  In this example, a guest would be charged $75 (rent) + $25 (service fee) + $12 (TOT) = $112. To collect the TOT, the party that receives the rent payment adds TOT to the rent and collects both at the same time (see table below for other examples of TOT calculations). The party receiving payment from the guest must provide a receipt, and the receipt must separately state the amount of TOT collected.

    Examples of TOT Calculations

    Taxable Rent Amount:
    (include but not limited to rent, service fees, and cleaning fees) 

    $25 $50 $75 $100
    12% TOT:
    (12% x Taxable Rent)
    $3 $6 $9 $12
    Amount to Collect from Guest:
    (Taxable Rent + TOT)
    $28 $56 $84 $112

    The party that collects transient occupancy tax holds it in trust for the City of Berkeley, until it remits those funds to the City.

    The 2% code enforcement fee is added to the TOT remittance to the City. To estimate TOT and code enforcement fees, you can use the calculator below. 

     TOT CALCULATOR FOR 
    SHORT-TERM RENTALS
     
       
    Enter Taxable Rental Amount: $ 
    (include but not limited to rent, service fees, and cleaning fees)
       
       
    12% TOT:
    (12% x Taxable Rent)
     
       
    2% Code Enforcement Fee:
    (2% x Taxable Rent) 
     
       
    Amount to Submit to the City:
    (TOT + Code Enforcement Fee)
     

      

    32. Can a host charge the Short-Term Rental 2% code enforcement fee to the transient? 

    No. The code enforcement fee is paid by the host.

    33. How do fees or commissions retained by website companies affect calculation of Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT)? 

    Arrangements between a host and a website company do not affect calculation of TOT.  TOT is calculated based on the amount paid by the guest.  

    34. When should Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) collections be remitted to the City? 

    The TOT must be submitted monthly and is due no later than the last day of the following month. For example, the TOT collected in the month of May must be remitted by June 30. TOT collections are reported and remitted to the Finance Treasury Office based on the month in which the payment is received by the host, not the month in which the occupancy occurred. Tax returns must be filed monthly even if no tax is due.

    35. Who is responsible for collecting Transient Occupancy Tax from guests if I rent through Airbnb, VRBO, or other hosting platforms? 

    The host is responsible for ensuring compliance with the City’s TOT Ordinance, including the collection and remittance of any TOT taxes that apply to their accommodations. If payment by the guest is made through the hosting platform, it may collect the tax on your behalf. Please check with your hosting platform to see if these taxes are collected by them. 

    36. Which hosting platforms have a "Voluntary Collection Agreement" with the City?

    Airbnb is currently the only hosting platform that have a "Voluntary Collection Agreement" with the City. This means that if you host exclusively through Airbnb, you are not required to submit TOT filings. The tax collection by Airbnb does not include the 2% enforcement fee. Hosts are responsible for paying the 2% enforcement fee to the City.

    37. Can a hosting platform remit Transient Occupancy Tax  and code enforcement fee on behalf of the host? 

    Yes, hosting platforms that have an agreement with the City can remit the TOT and code enforcement fee on behalf of the host. Hosting platforms may contact the City's Tax Administrator at revdev@cityofberkeley.info or 510-981-7318 for more information.

    38. Where can I get more information Transient Occupancy Tax? 

    Information on the Transient Occupancy Tax is available at www.cityofberkeley.info/finance/tot.

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